In an embarrassing security lapse disclosed Wednesday, a British newspaper reporter entered Buckingham Palace ahead of President Bush’s state visit, using a fake reference to obtain a position on the royal staff, and was assigned to serve members of Bush’s party.
The attorney general’s representative, David Pannick QC, described Ryan Parry of the Daily Mirror as “not so much a footman as a foot-in-the-door man,” accusing the reporter of “obvious and unjustified intrusions into the private life of the royal household”
The startling investigation raises concerns about royal security.
According to the Daily Mirror, he quit the royal staff the night before he was supposed to deliver Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice breakfast on their first morning at the palace.
Following two days in which the Mirror published 27 pages of extensive insights into life at Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle, the palace is seeking an injunction to prevent the Mirror and Parry from releasing any further material acquired during his time as a royal servant.
Pictures of Parry dressed in red livery are included in the article, as well as photos from inside the palace, including the president and his wife’s bedroom, The Belgian Suite, the Queen’s breakfast table, and the Duke of York’s chamber, which contains soft toys.
The title “Intruder” was emblazoned over the front page of The Mirror, with a picture of its reporter, Ryan Parry, standing on a Buckingham Palace balcony.
“Had I been a terrorist intent on assassinating the Queen or American president George Bush, I could have done so with absolute ease,” Parry wrote.
“Indeed, this morning I would have been serving breakfast to key members of his government, including National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice and US Secretary of State Colin Powell.
“Such is the shocking incompetence at the heart of the biggest security operation ever in Britain.
The Queen was seeking the injunction, Mr Pannick told the judge, Mr Justice Lewison, because Parry had broken his contractual duty to preserve confidentiality.
Bush, who came in London on Tuesday for a state visit and is staying at the palace as the queen’s guest, learned of the breach on Wednesday morning.
“We have every confidence in the British security,” White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan said, directing any further queries to British authorities.
Mr Pannick said that neither the Queen nor the Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, had any desire to “stifle discussion”
“But it is plain, as I shall show you, that the articles go far beyond any such material,” he said.
According to the publication, Parry replied to a job post on the Buckingham Palace official website’s recruiting page in August, and on his CV, he left out aspects of his journalistic experience and provided one false and one genuine reference.
The Home Secretary, David Blunkett, who is in charge of law and order, stressed that the Daily Mirror reporter merely lied about his job background. Blunkett said that issues with physical security at the royal palaces had been addressed, but admitted that the failure to thoroughly verify the reporter’s background “is a breach and … it needs to be closed.”
When the news of Parry’s infiltration made the front page of the Mirror yesterday, the palace threatened legal action and asked the editor, Piers Morgan, to promise that no more such information would be published.
A royal spokesperson said Buckingham Palace was undertaking a “full investigation.” “We are satisfied that both the security and the criminal records checks were done robustly and correctly and that there was no risk from this individual,” David Blunkett stated.
Parry stated that no thorough background checks were conducted on him.
Mr Pannick said that Parry had signed a confidentiality agreement in which he agreed not to disclose to any unauthorised person “any information whatsoever, whether of an official or personal nature” about any member of the royal family or royal household, unless he was authorized to do so.
“I think it’s important that we establish the facts first,” Prime Minister Tony Blair remarked in the House of Commons when questioned about the story.
The Mirror’s front page title read, “Right royal fiasco,” kicking off 15 pages of reportage with teases like “Inside the president’s bedroom” and “I could have poisoned the queen.”
On his first day, Parry said he was granted a complete all-areas security clearance and had direct access to the Queen’s meals, which he claimed he could have poisoned easily.
The contract, according to Mr Pannick, contained “a very clear agreement, the purpose of which is to prevent those in royal service from communicating to third parties what they have learned”
“Will he be acting unlawfully to say the wallpaper is pink?” the judge wondered.
Mr Pannick said, “We are concerned on any view with a very substantial breach of this agreement.”
“In truth, Mr Parry had no intention whatever of complying with this undertaking. He is and was a journalist working for the Daily Mirror – not so much a footman as a foot-in-the-door-man.”